Alternative fuel production to increase during energy transition

22nd March 2024 By: Trent Roebeck - Features Reporter

Alternative fuel production to increase during energy transition

MICHIEL BAERENDS Fluor's process director believes that the realisation of a global energy transition relies heavily on alternative fuels and e-fuels

One of the foreseeable energy transition trends in 2024, and beyond, is that of increased production of fuels made of vegetable oils and animal fats in the short term, augmented with production of electro-fuels (e-fuels) in the longer term, says engineering firm Fluor process director Michiel Baerends.

In addition to the increasing uptake of electric vehicles, which stands as one alternative method to eradicate the use of fossil fuels, e-fuels – which are produced from electrolytic, or “green”, hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) – are also expected to be used to power cars, trucks, ships and planes, owing to the benefit of being able to be “dropped in” into existing combustion engines, says Baerends.

Despite being insufficient in availability to substitute high percentages of petroleum- derived fuel, animal fats and vegetable oils – which can be processed into diesel and kerosene – are considered the most accessible resources as a short-term solution.

However, Baerends says, once the availability limits of vegetable oils and fats have been reached, two additional options are available. These include the conversion solid biomass to transportation fuels (albeit using more elaborate processing routes), or manufacture of e-fuels from ‘green’ electricity and CO2.

A key benefit of e-fuel adoption, when compared to the use of biomass, is the fact that this form of transportation fuel does not add strain on arable land and will, in turn, not pose a threat to land resources that are important for agriculture. This makes it a worthwhile investment for countries that are well placed to make the key ‘raw material’ of e-fuels, namely ‘green power’, available economically.

Additionally, e-fuels facilities will require large amounts of CO2. “Pipelines that collect CO2 from various emitters, possibly to convey the CO2 to underground ‘sequestration’ could be instrumental in supplying CO2 to e-fuels facilities,” he comments.

Making alternative fuels easily accessible will require significant investment from governments and other players.

However, alternative fuels are integral to the realisation of the energy transition.